While the pandemic – better known as COVID-19 – made us realise the helplessness of the human species in the face of nature, its wave that smit Pakistan did a lot more than just exposing a disease’s deadliness. From repulsive misogynistic ideologies to conservative religious views, Pakistanis not only tried their best to reach the root cause of the virus, but also endeavoured to invent its cures not proven medically authentic or even healthy for that matter.
Observing these rambling and disoriented thought-processes in which Pakistanis remained engaged all the while during coronavirus’s heydays, Muhammad Faheem from Mehrdar Art and Production approached screenplay writer, Inam Hasan to pen a comic story-book, which, published by ILM O ADAB, would address the misconceptions that are not only blindly accepted by adults but are also blatantly inculcated among the children without any fact-checking. This comic storybook written by Hasan and illustrated by Umair Najeeb Khan is titled Little Master.
Talking to The Current, the writer, who has also penned several drama serials for HUM TV, said, “The story has been set in a simulation of Lyari, for with the city expanding rapidly, there are many such areas that are growing more and more aloof from the main city and are therefore becoming a target of the government’s negligence. This team which has initiated this idea of conveying messages through story-telling has been doing community work in Lyari for many years, and it is genuinely concerned for those underprivileged people whose children are also a part of the future generation but are not attended to. Therefore, we made a child our main character, whose name is Ahmad and whose mother is a nurse. He also has a Head Master as his ideal. The purpose of showing a child being surrounded by educated people and thus learning and imparting sensible things was to tell people to listen to teachers and to medical or paramedical staff who gain the first-hand experience of situations and are therefore reliable sources.”
In order to draw a comparison between the literate and the illiterate, the writer has also developed characters like Naseehat Khala, a type commonly found across Pakistan whose sole objective in life is to give unasked for advices to everyone, regardless of whether they are practical or not.
“Then there is Baba Chul, an irritating old man and a Chacha Chewing Gum who beats about the bush and doesn’t come to the point,” the writer said. “The purpose of introducing all of these characters was to teach people that they should say what is pleasing, precise and practical.”
Coming towards the structure of the book, it is divided into 5 to 6 chapters, each dealing with an aspect of COVID-19 with respect to how it has been perceived and treated by Pakistanis. From misinformation and conspiracy theories to the hoarding of necessities that took place in this country while people were already starving due to the lockdown, the chapters try to address every single problem that arose. The writer also shared that in order to make it enjoyable, rhyme schemes have been employed in the story which will also serve the purpose of making children remember useful information.
When asked about the distribution of the book, The Current was told that the book was launched on October 7, but the purpose of launching it has not been to sell it and gain monetary benefit out of it. It is meant to be distributed among the neglected schools in Karachi which are operating at small scale levels and the students of which do not have access to reliable information. For others, the story is also available on the community page on Facebook known as Hum Sab Sath Corona Ke Khilaf.